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I love all things sewing!  It's all about the creative journey.  All my blog posts are letters to my sewing alter-ego - Lola!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Part of Something BIG

Dear Lola,

I’m so excited.  I decided to take a job in a fabric store!  I am thrilled I was hired at Wish Upon A Quilt.  It’s a great little fabric store with a big, big heart.  I started shopping there a little over 4 years ago and met the owner, Cathy McKillip during her first week as the shop owner.  The minute I met Cathy, I knew she was a kindred spirit.  She runs her shop as an extension of herself – happy, bright and cheerful.  She welcomes everyone with a smile and amazing guest service.  She cares about her customers and it shows. 

I recently attended a Mystery Quilt Retreat she hosted in Winston-Salem.  We had a conversation and one thing lead to another and kismet intervened and here I am working in a perfectly heavenly place for a fabric lover to be!  I know, of course, that absolutely nothing of my paycheck will ever leave the store, but hey at least I’m buying local!

I started working at a perfectly wonderful time on the Sewing Calendar in my community.  The Quilt Carolina Event was poised to begin and I jumped right in and remerchandised the Notions Wall.  My coworkers said I did a great job and it was music to my ears! The newly organized wall was a big hit with customers too.  I hope to keep learning and contributing to this dynamic little shop.

During the event, we awarded prizes and had lots of happy customers to help. It was a wonderful week of fun and excitement. All in all it was a great reminder of just how big the sewing and quilting community is and just how much I love all the people connected to it through their love of fabric.

This past week, I was filling orders for our online customers.  I had the pleasure of cutting fabrics for customers in Hawaii, Australia and even South Africa.  I loved seeing what people purchase and how they cleverly choose great color combinations and find fabrics they have been searching for on the web.  We get to call and/or write to people to let them know how much we have on hand of the fabrics they need and it’s great to hear the little happy dances they do when we have what they need.  One lady was so happy she would finally be able to finish a quilt for her first grandchild; another lady had been looking for this one fabric for 6 months to repair a family quilt; while another customer was just desperate for some bright green “Maxine” fabric that said “Blah, Blah”. 

While filling a particularly large order that was going to the other side of the globe, I got all excited about having a hand in something big - not a big order - something BIG.  While I don’t know how the fabrics will be used, I know as a sewing enthusiast – they are likely to be turned into projects filled with love and hope.  I know the fabrics will be manipulated into works of artistry; they will keep people warm at night; they will delight some special person; they will adorn someone's home; and they will fill people’s hearts with joy and laughter (“Blah, Blah!”).  It all made me proud to be in the circle that is sewing and to have an anonymous hand in making someone’s day! 

Lola, it’s so easy to look at life through the blinders of our own small needs.  I’m glad I joined Wish Upon A Quilt so I can be reminded that the entire world needs fabric just as much as I do.  It’s a wonderful thing to be part of something BIG and to make somebody's sewing wishes come true!

Hugs and stitches,


Friday, September 14, 2012

Nothing Like A Little Mystery!

Dear Lola,
How fun it was to travel to Winston-Salem last weekend, stay in the historic Brookstown Inn, and spend 3 fabulous days with like-minded sewing enthusiasts!  Wish Upon A Quilt, my go-to quilt shop, hosted the event!  Cathy McKillip, the owner of Wish Upon A Quilt, is a dear friend and an amazing shop owner.  She knows how hard it is to set time aside for sewing, so she hosts a couple of retreats per year.  I think Cathy loves the retreats more than anyone because running her shop takes away a lot of her own sewing time. 

This event, my first, was a Mystery Quilt Retreat, and featured a mystery pattern by quilting rock stars, Swirly Girls – Susan Emory and Christine Van Buskirk.  These ladies are beloved by many of us for creating the Perfect Ten Quilt Pattern and others.  The Swirly Girls are fun, funny and clearly love what they do!  Who wouldn’t?  They design fabrics; develop patterns and notions; and travel the world spreading a little quilting and sewing love!  At the end of the weekend, we were all devoted “Swirlettes”!  They were even kind enough to pose for a photo with me!  Like them on Facebook!

Me and the Swirly Girls!

Each participant was given some instructions on fabrics to bring.  For example:  1 ½ yard of a focus fabric, 2 yards of a background fabric, 1 yard of fabric color 1, ½ yard of fabric color 2, etc…and the exciting part was not knowing what the pattern looked like!  It was called the Secret Square!  Don’t you just love secrets?  I know I do!

The event was held at the historic Brookstown Inn in the heart of Winston-Salem and the Ballroom for our cooperative sewing was beyond terrific.  We each had our own banquet-sized table, there were many cutting-height tables available, many pressing stations, lots of lighting, lots of treats, and more sewing enthusiasm than you can ever imagine in one room.  The event pricing was very affordable because it included the room, fabric, several meals and lots of goodies!  We had a wonderful wine and cheese reception on Friday evening.  They served the best little pumpkin turkey bites ever, hummus, veggies and cheeses.  And on Saturday we were served a yummy Turkey Pot Pie, salad and a White Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert that was absolutely sinfully delicious – the best I have ever eaten! Kudos to Cathy for being a hostess extraordinaire.  

Each participant had selected unique fabrics, brought different sewing stories and came from near and far.  We were given our cutting instructions and then the real fun began.  The ladies in my bank of tables were a hoot.  A special shout out to Anita, Chris and Debbie!  Y’all are now officially my “Sewing Sisters”! We laughed and giggled like little schoolgirls.  We stayed up into the wee hours sewing, un-sewing (code for seam ripping) and laughing.

The Swirly Girls presented a trunk show of their totally new Swirly collection of fabrics called Poppy Love for Michael Miller and all the Quilts and Projects that are part of the 2013 Michael Miller Clubhouse.  They gave a demo on a new ruler they have created in conjunction with Creative Grids and Karla Alexander…. that cuts circles like no ruler I have ever seen before!  Wow.  They have also developed these fun, easy patterns that utilize circles in creative ways that seem fresh, fun and modern.  Saving up for my CircleSavvy Ruler!

I have already signed up for next year’s Clubhouse at Wish Upon A Quilt and believe me, so should you!  Each month you work on a block for a gorgeous, ambitious quilt that will be completed in 12 months.  As you know, I am working on this year’s Weekend Clubhouse Quilt in the Cabana color way, and it is my most ambitious project ever.  The great thing is that I haven’t been stressed about it all – I’m doing a little at a time and that makes it awesome and very doable.

Throughout the weekend, ladies worked on projects they brought and the Mystery Quilt too.  Some of the speed quilters finished theirs while chatty quilters like me got about half way through.  I had the absolute best weekend I can remember even though the quilt was full of Flying Geese (see my previous post about my conflicted relationship with Flying Geese)!  I am sew happy I bonded with lots of new sewing friends and felt great about all I learned.  I came home energized, inspired, and looking forward to attending my next retreat.   Here's a little video with some highlights from the weekend.

Hugs and stitches,

Monday, September 10, 2012

September is National Sewing Month - Don't Feed the Bugs

Dear Lola,
Isn’t it great, we get a whole month to celebrate our love of sewing?   This month is also the 5-year anniversary of my passionate marriage with sewing!  When I began this creative journey, I didn’t make the connection that September is National Sewing Month, but how appropriate!  At the time I got my start, there were so many other things to think about – which machine to buy, which needles to use, which fabrics work best and which threads are right.

I have made lots of decisions since I took my first leap into the world of sewing.  There have been mostly good decisions (taking classes and joining guilds), but sprinkled in for good measure there have been some bad (sewing late at night) and some downright funny (sewing a sleeve to a neck hole)!  Since we are celebrating, it’s a good time to recount some of my decisions and experiences along the way!

My most “favorite” funny decision was purchasing a box of fabrics at an estate sale.  I’d been hearing about how important it was to build up a stash.  The price for the box of fabric seemed affordable; it was a large plastic bin for $20.  The family of the original owner didn’t sew like “Granny”.  They were happy to get it off their hands and I was excited to be building my stash!  I rushed it home, ready to be creative and discovered that the fabrics were full of bugs.  Needless to say, I learned that bargains aren’t always bargains.  My fab new find went right into the garbage!  I couldn’t help feeling a little sad for “Granny”, the original owner  - I’m sure she would have been appalled to think of her treasure trove being full of bugs.  I’m sure she imagined she would make beautiful creations with her pretty fabrics. What an overall disappointment for me– I thought how could anyone let their fabric grow so old it became infested with insects?

My favorite good decision was purchasing my Bernina sewing machine.  As a newbie, it was wonderful to get the mastery classes with my machine.  The Bernina Mastery Workbook provides hand-on steps to get a new sewing enthusiast started.  I still refer back to the stitch settings and information in this gigantic book!  I continue to love my Bernina machines (now I own several) and all their fabulous feet!  The Bernina Blog continues to educate me and I know I will always be a Bernina Babe!  My dealer, Elegant Stitches, has not only provided me with great service, but also with some of the most important friendships of my recent life.  This is a special shout out to Shelley, Renee, Brenda, Marian, Laurie, and Maureen.  These ladies are my “go-to” bunch for sewing support and real life hugs.

Another amazing experience was joining the Quilt Alliance and attending Quilters Take Raleigh.  It was so inspiring to learn about this organization’s mission of documenting, preserving and sharing quilts and the stories associated with those quilts!  Seeing a family quilt from the 1700’s is an experience I’ll never forget.  If you’re not a member, you should consider joining to further their great cause. 

The biggest, bad decision I have made was purchasing a high-powered digitizing software package.  While I love, love doing embroidery on my machine.  I really never use the digitizing part of the program.  I really only need to monogram, resize and combine designs.  So the money that I spent for all the other fancy features was truly unnecessary.  To be honest, this isn’t the only item that I have purchased that I haven’t utilized to its full extent, but I think many sewing enthusiasts have similar stories to tell.  We all get caught up in the excitement of what we think a product can do for us and then we get home and realize it’s not as practical as we thought.

And the final admission I have to make is that I definitely own way too much fabric.  In 5 years, I have accumulated more fabric than the legal limit!  Ok, so there isn’t a legal limit, but maybe there should be!  I say this only because, here it is September-National Sewing Month and I can’t find a thing I’m looking for!  I have my fabric hidden in closets, under beds and in plastic boxes.  I need to find it all, try to use it up and shrink down my supply.  Why, you ask.  Because, some day, I’d hate to think of my fabric for sale at an estate sale and full of bugs! 

So to my sewing friends – it is September – National Sewing Month!  Get busy and sew!  Let’s celebrate all the great things about sewing! The last thing we want to do is feed the bugs!

Hugs and stitches, 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What I Know For Sure

Dear Lola,
As you know, I was always a big Oprah fan.  I loved watching her ask her guests her signature question, “What Do You Know For Sure?”  The answers that people give when asked this question are amazing windows into their minds, hearts and souls. 

I recently got to thinking about what answer would I give when asked this question about sewing.  After 5 years of winding bobbins, rotary cutting, sewing classes and throwing my whole creative spirit into all things fabric-related –

What Do I Know For Sure?

Top of the Line Machines

Sewists discuss this topic often.  Many that don’t have a top of the line machine aspire to own one and then there are those who have one and know it’s probably more machine than they need 99% of the time.  There are also plenty of folks out there who are absolutely satisfied with the machines they use – top of the line or not! I firmly believe the sewing machine you use doesn’t have to be the top of the line.  I say this not to make any sewing machine manufacturers unhappy.  I say it because it’s true.  This is when I insert a disclaimer – I own a Bernina 830 – their top of the line machine.  It’s a rock solid piece of artistry in motion.  It will last me until the end of time and then be passed on to my heirs!  It has every bell and whistle, but to be honest I don’t ever touch most of the amazing functions.  Knowing I could use all the features is comforting though.  So if you are thinking of taking up sewing – you can do a perfectly wonderful job with a solid machine that doesn’t have it all.  I find that my “go-to-stitches” are straight, zigzag, blanket stitch, satin stitch, free-motion, and a one-step button hole.  If your machine can do these stitches – you have most everything covered.  Never let your "machine-envy" hold you back!  Sew and grow – it can be done inexpensively!

Tables Matter

The table where you do your sewing and cutting is as important as the machine.  For the 4 years that I have owned my big honking sewing machine, I had it sitting on a banquet table I purchased at Costco for $50 bucks.  This is clearly an oxymoron right off the bat – machine worth thousands sitting on a $50 table!  I knew I wanted to upgrade to a “real” sewing table, but let’s face it – I shot my entire wad on the machine!  I came into a little inheritance when my beloved Mom passed this year and decided to finally get a serious table for my serious machine.  This was the single best big-ticket purchase I have made for my sewing space - EVER.  My machine no longer vibrates; my arms and back no longer ache; my stitches and cutting are straighter; and my bigger projects are just plain easier to manipulate.  So if I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now – a solid table with a place to sink your machine so it sits flush is at least as important as the machine you purchase.  In this chicken/egg - which came first argument – I think rock solid table should come first!  Make room in your budget for a solid sewing/cutting table no matter what!  Mine is a Koala.

Small Things Create Success

It’s the little things that count!  Change your needle, clean your machine and oil it if necessary.  These little things make a huge difference, cost little and secure a lot!  They are sewing insurance.  Everything just comes out better whenever I do these things.   Treat your machine as though it is a beloved child or even better – a beloved pet!  Give it what it needs to stay maintained.  My machine has a program that allows you to enter the type of needle currently loaded – which is great – but it’s not enough.  I keep a VERY high tech Post-It note pad right next to machine and attach that magic little sticky to the top of my machine with the date I changed the needle on it.  I look at this note every time I turn my machine on and I am reminded when I last changed my needle.  I like to change my needle with every project – I know that makes me a needle junkie – literally, but I buy them whenever JoAnn’s has their 50% off the notions wall sale and stock up.  For literally just a few cents, I am sure my needle is pristine and my project is more likely to come to a successful end.

Be A Groupie

I love my solitary “me” time in my sewing space.  I accomplish the most when I am alone and if it’s not too late at night – I make far less mistakes when I am sewing by myself – I am less distracted!  Yet there is no substitute for sewing in a group from time to time.  The juicy tidbits of knowledge you can pick up from your sewing friends are invaluable.  The collaborative spirits of the classroom, block of the month club, or quilting bee make my overall sewing experience better.  Seeing what others are doing during show-and-tell sessions opens my mind in tons of new directions.  Recently in my Michael Miller Clubhouse, I learned I could sew over floral wire and organza!  I love that my class neighbor’s supply box will almost always have some ruler, cutting tool, or notion in it that I have never seen before.  I adore it when I learn some new way to work a tool I already have too! You will never regret the knowledge you can cultivate and grow from being in a sewing group.  There are lifelong friends out there to be made too!  Even virtual groups like Craftsy give you a great sense of belonging. Sewists are friendly and supportive toward one another – definitely be a groupie!

Avoid being the Subject of a Future Reality TV Episode

In the time I have been sewing, I have created lots of little projects:  baby quilts, burp pads, bibs, bags, totes, notebook covers, and aprons.  Yes, most of them are easy to sew projects that require little real serious sewing skills.  I know without a doubt, my finished products are not heirloom items destined for a showcase or museum.  I have created lots of gifts that have been given away, but I still have many of the projects I have completed stored in big Rubbermaid plastic bins.  After buying yet another bin this week for my quickly growing collection of learning opportunities, I now realize my sewing projects are not meant to be stored away in boxes!  It’s time I sort them, keep a few, photograph the rest and then give them away or even sell them!  Yes, they are reminders of wonderful sewing experiences – but just like life – we can’t carry all the moments in our pockets with us forever. It’s time for me to send my projects on to destinations known and unknown!  Besides, if I don’t part with all these finished sewing projects very soon; I may find myself featured in an episode of “Hoarders”! 

Hugs and stitches,  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Virtual Sewing Reality

Dear Lola,

According to Wikipedia, Virtual reality (VR) is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds.

My sewing VR takes me to many blogs and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Craftsy and Pinterest.  Using these resources has become an essential part of my sewing journey.  When my “inspiration cup” is feeling empty, I know what to do to fill it up!

The start to a perfect sewing day starts with my coffee mug, a computer and a mouse.  My first stop is generally my personal email.   I check for updates from my favorite bloggers.  Since I started my blog, following other blogs has become even more important to my creative process.  Google+ has helped me really keep up!

My next stop is Facebook.  I originally signed up for Facebook to keep in touch with my real family.  Now it has become much more about my Sewing and Quilting Family for sure.  I have learned how to selectively post to my Sewing Friends and this pleases my real family to no end!  They are no longer inundated with project photos and quips on trips to the fabric store.

Pinterest is next on my visit list.  This amazing site contains so much inspiration that I can time travel to the future – what I mean is – I can sit in front of the computer and before I know it – I have travelled 2 hours into the future!  How do they do it?  This site is awesome for bookmarking my favorite blogs and projects.  I love knowing how to find my “web trail”!  No more saying to myself, “now where was that site with the cute apron project or where is that fabulous neckline tutorial?”  I can find what I am looking for in a jiffy!  I have installed the “Pin It” command on my tool bar and use it throughout the day!  I love all the great people I follow on Pinterest too!

No day would be complete without a visit to Craftsy.  Since I signed up, this site has continued to improve, amaze and inspire.  Now they have added the ability to post your projects and follow others.  Woohoo!  All I can say is that they continue to nail it!  I love the deals they offer, the classes are absolutely sublime, and the educators are top-notch, world-class and fantastically inspirational.  Seeing all the great projects and workshops is like growing creative wings!  I feel like I can fly just about anywhere!

Then there are my favorite virtual friends.  These zany, colorful, creative people shape my day and many of them I have never met!  I look to their blogs, Facebook pages and websites for my daily dose of over the top happiness.  Their vision of the world is artistic and humorous.  They use their wit, charm and sense of whimsy to make the world a more creative and fun place. 

My favorites are: 

1.  Alex Veronelli of Aurifil.  I follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  His sense of humor is wicked.  I have never met him- but I consider myself an “Alex Groupie”!  He is my go to guy for a daily humor injection!  By the way – Aurifil thread is the best!  If you haven’t tried it – you are missing out!  The thread is just like Alex – sexy and colorful!  I have a crush on both!  Can I say that?

2. Pepper Cory, Quiltmaker and Author.  Pepper is free-spirited and dynamic.  I first became acquainted with Pepper on Craftsy and then was lucky enough to meet her in person at a Quilt Alliance event.  I love her posts about her cats (even though I am a dog person) and her love of quilting. Her posts are as scrappy as her quilts and that’s a good thing!  She is especially passionate about Vintage and Antique Quilts and has opened a whole new world to me. 

3.  Tula Pink, Fabric Designer, Author and Bernina Ambassador – Since I first began sewing I have adored Tula’s fabrics.  One of my first garment sewing projects was made with Tula’s fabric.  To this day, it is my favorite skirt!  Tula has a unique sewing voice.  Her creative vision is full of whimsy.  Before I met her at a Sewing Expo, I knew she was dynamic.  In person, she is even more WOW!  Her point of view is fresh and fun and flirty.  Following her blog, Twitter and Facebook keeps me in the “Tula Universe” which is a pretty cool place to be!

4.  Lola Jenkins, Prize-winning Art Quilter and Craftsy Educator – I stumbled across Lola (doesn’t she have a great name?) through Craftsy.  I signed up for her Thread Art Class.  Just 5 minutes into the class, I knew I loved this lady.  Her story of how she came into Art Quilting is “sew” inspirational.  What she has accomplished is incredible and her work is downright stunning!  We have since become Facebook friends and I hope to meet her in person some day.

5.  Meg Cox, Author, Board Member Quilt Alliance – Meg’s book, The Quilter’sCatalog, was the first book I purchased when I began my sewing journey 5 years ago!  Can I say I love this book?  It’s an amazing reference for someone just beginning to navigate their way through the quilting/sewing universe.  Meg is thoughtful and witty writer.  I follow her posts on her blog and Facebook. She does great things for the Quilt Alliance.  I adore her other book, FamilyTraditions and I hope to meet her some day soon too.

6. Anthony Jones, Quiltmaker – Anthony is a beloved Facebook and Pinterest friend.  Ironically, Anthony lives in Clearwater, Florida – my old hometown.  I never knew him when I was living there – oh how I wish I had!  I love his posts on just about everything.  He has a highly-evolved sense of humor and just seems like an all around cool guy!  Some days, Anthony’s posts can just make me laugh out loud and make my day!

7. Pat Sloan, Creative Blogger and Virtual Radio Host – Pat is a Virtual Pioneer with her Creative Talk Network.  I visit her Blog and her site regularly for all the happenings in the quilting and sewing world.  She has great forums and events listed on her site.  Her Facebook posts are fun and full of creative spirit.

The Internet is such an amazing tool.  It allows me to make friends with an entire circle of creative people that I might never have known otherwise.  They are physically present in my life in a way that impacts my sewing journey more than the people who actually live in my home.  These creative souls inspire.  Modern times have allowed us to create the spirit of the French Art Salon - a free exhibition and exchange of artistic ideas.

Lola, Virtual Reality is a creative, artistic, safe, inspiring, supportive, loving and funny place to be!

Hugs and stitches,